Whether you are a startup or a marketer working in a large brand, a new logo is always an exciting project. The small details of deliverables and T&Cs can seem uninteresting, as you’ll get everything you need, right?
As a graphic designer, I’m surprised by how often I hear a client doesn’t have the file types they need to use their logo across print and digital. I heard it so often, I’ve just published a thorough 8 chapter guide to logo file types, copyright, logo sizes and brand identity guidelines.
The lovely team at The Marketing Meetup have invited me to highlight the most important section of the guide in this post. Everybody who’s about to specify a new logo project should read it – it could save you a headache down the line!
Here is a straightforward guide to vector and raster images and the file types you need to get your logo delivered in from your designer.
What is the difference between Vector and Raster images?
In a nutshell, there are two main types of an image file: vector and raster. Each has their specific uses, and knowing which to send to your printer and which to use on your website will help you have a crisp logo wherever it is shown.
A raster (bitmap) image file is made up of small squares known as pixels. Raster files are brilliant for complex images such as photos and they are the standard output of a digital camera. Editing software such as Adobe Photoshop, Corel PHOTO-PAINT or Affinity Photo are made for pixel-based images, and the clue is in the name: Photoshop.
If you resize a raster image, you’ll find the effect on both image quality and size can be dramatic. This is because the software you are using to resize the file is either adding (and making up) extra pixels or deleting them, which can dramatically change how the image appears. This is how you get blurry and degraded images or giant image file sizes.
Common raster file types include JPEG and PNG.
A vector image file, on the other hand, is made up of paths, points, angles and shapes. They are a mathematical description, rather than made up of multiple pixels, which allows them to be infinitely scaled up or down without any loss of quality.
The file size should change very little when a vector image is scaled, as there are no extra pixels being added. This makes a vector image useful for logos as you can easily scale them down to appear on a business card, or up to appear on a billboard.
Your designer should be using vector software to design your new logo, and then outputting whatever file types you need from there. Adobe Illustrator is a common choice, but other equivalents such as CorelDraw or Affinity Designer will get the same result. If you only get one file type from your designer, it should be the original vector file.
Common vector file types include AI, SVG, PDF and EPS.
What Raster file types should I receive my logo in?
We’ve established that you shouldn’t change the dimensions of a raster logo file, or you’ll end up with a blurry mess. But raster files are useful when a small file size is essential, such as in your email signature. Do you know when you’d use a PNG over a JPEG? Or what on earth a TIFF file is for?
Probably the most well known to all computer users, JPEG (or JPG) is best for photos and images with lots of complexity. They are lossy image files, meaning pixels are literally thrown away to make a smaller file size.
This happens every time you save it, so never open a JPEG, edit it, and save it again. You should go back to the original file format to make your changes if you can, and then save it as a new JPEG.
The big benefit of JPEG files is their compression, meaning a complex image can be a small file size. This tends to make them quick to load and is useful for web pages where a complex image needs to be used.
As a logo doesn’t tend to be a complex image and is more often made of crisp lines and edges, I’d strongly argue that this file type isn’t appropriate. The only reason I supply JPEG versions of a logo is for compatibility. Sometimes you have no choice but to supply your logo to a third party as a JPEG file, as it is the only file they will accept. If you have a choice, don’t supply or use a JPEG version of your logo.
A PNG file is a lossless raster image file. Unlike a JPEG, pixels are not thrown away to compress the image file size, meaning you can open and save it without degrading the image quality. However, this does mean they tend to be bigger file sizes than their JPEG equivalents.
Another benefit of PNG files is their ability to have a transparent background. This can be incredibly useful for a logo file as they are often overlaid on coloured or image backgrounds.
They are still raster based images though, meaning they are made up of pixels. If you try to change the file size you will either add or throw away pixels, degrading the image quality. Once again, if you want to change the size of the image, it would be better to export a new PNG image from the original vector file.
TIFF files are also lossless compression files and are regularly used by photographers and printers to maintain the clarity and integrity of an image.
The upside to a TIFF file is their versatility. They support both lossy and lossless compression, and you can scale them without losing picture quality. They are perfect for photo manipulation.
Sounds great, right? A raster image file you can scale, edit and save as often as you like, without creating a blurry image. So, what’s the downside?
TIFF images are huge in file size. Upload one to a website and you’ll see the immediate impact on speed. A TIFF file is usually used for image printing, where the added file size is worth the gain in quality.
TIFF files don’t have any benefit for a logo, even less so than JPEGs. Logo’s aren’t complex photo-like images with the need for large numbers of pixels. They are typically made up of clean lines and shapes, which make them more suited to vector image file types.
What Vector file types should I receive my logo in?
As vector files can scale without impacting the quality of an image, they are a logical choice for logo files. Your master file should certainly be a vector. However certain file types are best suited to different uses, and a PNG can often be a logical choice when used digitally instead of a vector file type.
Here at Kabo Creative we supply AI (because that’s the master file), PDF for printing purposes and SVG for showing your logo on your website.
Assuming your logo was designed in Adobe Illustrator, the AI file is where the magic happens. It is your master file, enabling you to export different sizes, pass it to printers, and have further design work carried out in future.
If you don’t have Adobe Illustrator yourself, you won’t be able to edit this file, but you can view it with a PDF reader (if it was saved with PDF compatibility). If you do have Adobe Illustrator, you can export any file type you might need using this master file.
In the design world, there can be mixed opinions on whether master files are delivered to the client. This crosses over with the issue of copyright and Intellectual Property. Be aware that as a default your designer owns the IP of their design work.
Your designer needs to contractually specify that they hand this over to you, in order for you to own the IP and copyright to your logo. This is a meaty topic, but if you’d like to read more about it you can find our section on logo copyright here.
Short and sweet, EPS files are not bound to Adobe Illustrator, meaning other vector editing software can open and edit this file type. They are very similar to AI files, but they are becoming outdated as PDF file types become more and more advanced.
Some print companies using older technology may request them, so it’s a good idea to get your logo in an EPS file format from your designer.
As hinted to in the section above, it is possible to retain the original editing capabilities when exporting to PDF from software such as Adobe Illustrator. The PDF can then be used in any vector programme, much like an EPS file.
Another benefit is the ability for PDF files to be opened with free PDF reader software, allowing clients without specialist software to be able to open and view the design files. It’s becoming more and more common for print companies to request PDF files instead of EPS.
An SVG file stores a vector file as code and can be opened and edited using a text-based editor such as Notepad, or a code editor such as Sublime Text. But they can also be produced using vector design software.
The greatest benefit of an SVG file is their ability to scale infinitely whilst being very small file size. This is incredibly useful for logos, especially when used on responsive websites. It allows your logo to load at exactly the right size, regardless of screen size, without any damage in image quality or any wasted file size.
However, using SVGs can open your website up to security vulnerabilities. As described above, they are not image files, but code files. It is possible to open, read and modify an SVG file using a simple text editor. Therefore it is technically possible for this file to be edited to contain malicious code.
To avoid this happening the SVG file must be sanitised before it is uploaded to your website. You can either get a developer to do this for you or if you run a WordPress website this plugin does the hard work for you.
Summary: The logo file types you should ask your designer for
We’ve identified that an SVG is the ultimate file type to display your logo on the web. We’ve also seen that vector-based images can be scaled indefinitely for print, allowing you to use it on a business card right up to a billboard.
So, you may wonder why you’d even want your vector graphic in a raster format? SVGs can’t be used everywhere, for example, social media profiles will only accept PNG and JPEG raster file formats.
As described under JPEG file formats, unless you have no other option, I’d use PNG. You can use transparent backgrounds, and they handle text, lines and crisp shapes much better than JPEGs.
Here’s my ultimate list of the file types you want to receive your logo in, and when to use each type:
- AI for future file type exporting
- EPS for compatibility
- PDF for print
- SVG for your website
- PNG for general online use
- JPEG for those times a third party can’t accept any other files type
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